As a college student at Kent State University, I am constantly reminded of the loyalty people in Northeast Ohio have for their sports teams.
When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Miami Heat, basketball fans acted like it was the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Even people who weren’t avid followers of basketball were happy to see James come back to their town, bringing some hope to a city with a bad reputation.
Last year, James took the Cavaliers to the NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 93 to 89 in the final game of the NBA finals.
The next day, the city of Cleveland had a big parade with fans cheering in the crowd while Kent State students showed pride for their team with 2016 NBA championship shirts. Talk of the win filled classrooms and hallways for the rest of the week.
I’m not a sports fan, but I was filled with the same pride when the Cavaliers won. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I didn’t have a hometown basketball team to follow, but living in Kent for three years now has allowed Northeast Ohio to grow on me.
However, I was filled with disgust rather than pride when the Cleveland Indians advanced to the World Series.
During the World Series, Kent State students sported their baseball caps and sweatshirts with Chief Wahoo plastered on the front.
Chief Wahoo isn’t just a mascot for the Cleveland Indians. It’s a racist caricature that is equivalent to blackface.
Cleveland has never been kind to its Native population.
A “real” Cleveland Indian, Jacqueline Keeler told Salon.com she is often ashamed of her birthplace.
“Let’s face it- its name does not connote class, progress or future further thinking, and instead recalls images of Lake Erie oil slicks burning smokily in Rust Belt despair,” Keeler wrote.
In the 1950s and 60s, Cleveland was one of several Relocation Centers across the country set up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to lure young Native people from their homelands with promises of a better life.
This was in preparation for the be-all-and-end-all solution- termination and full assimilation to what Congress called the “Indian Problem.”
Keeler’s parents arrived in the 1960s when there were an estimated 9,000 Native Americans in Cleveland from tribes all across the country.
“When my dad arrived in Cleveland, the BIA gave him a voucher to stay at a hotel. When he opened the door to his room, there was dried blood on the floor, and all night a drunk man kept him awake trying to break his door down, trying to get in,” Keeler wrote.
Keeler described her father as a tough guy, a former high school football captain and soldier in the Army, but even for him it was an extremely unsettling experience.
Illinois, would poison Standing Rock Reservation’s water supply and damage its environmental and cultural sites.
The welfare of people should be more important than a baseball game.
Changing the name of the Cleveland Indians back to the original name of the Cleveland Spiders wouldn’t compensate a fraction of the injustices Native people have faced and are still dealing with today. But, it would at least be a step for them to take back their culture that has been mocked and used for others aesthetic purposes.
Words: Jillian Holness
Images: Eva Ennals